(Reuters) - Malaysia's premier called for fresh elections on Wednesday.
The 12th election in Malaysia's history pits Abdullah's long-ruling
Barisan Nasional coalition of 14 parties against three main opposition
parties, the left-leaning Democratic Action Party, the Islamist party
Parti Islam se-Malaysia and former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim's Parti
Here are some key facts about Malaysia's political history:
* Malaya, the 11 states in the Malay Peninsula that formed the
southern-most tip of mainland Asia, gained independence from Britain on
August 31, 1957. It was then a leading producer of commodities such as
tin and rubber.
* Led by the Tunku Abdul Rahman, an affable prince from Kedah state,
Malaya prospered. It merged with the Borneo states of Sarawak and Sabah
and Singapore to form Malaysia on September 16, 1963.
* Politics and a personality clash between Tunku Abdul Rahman and
Singapore's then leader, Lee Kuan Yew, saw the island state separate
from Malaysia in August 1965.
* Tunku Abdul Rahman's ruling Alliance coalition suffered major
setbacks in the May 12, 1969 elections, leading to racial riots a day
-- No precise fatality figures have ever been given for the riots
between ethnic Malay and Chinese communities, which caused parliament
to be suspended for nearly two years as Malaysia was governed by
-- Tunku Abdul Rahman, who once described himself as "the happiest
prime minister in the world", resigned a year later, giving way to
deputy Abdul Razak Hussein.
COALITION CONSOLIDATES POWER:
* Abdul Razak expanded the original Alliance coalition of three
parties to include others such as the Islamist Parti Islam se-Malaysia
(PAS) to contest the 1974 general elections.
* The new-look coalition, known as the Barisan Nasional or National
Front, won, and Abdul Razak embarked on an agricultural drive,
emphasizing oil palm estates.
* Abdul Razak died of leukemia while still in office in January
1976. His deputy, Hussein Onn, became Malaysia's third prime minister.
* PAS left the expanded coalition as Hussein's United Malays
National Organisation (UMNO) made inroads into Kelantan, its stronghold
state. The National Front trounced PAS in Kelantan in the 1978
elections, but PAS regained control of the state in 1990.
THE RISE OF MAHATHIR:
* Hussein resigned for health reasons in July 1981 and his deputy,
Mahathir Mohamad, who was once sacked from UMNO for criticizing Tunku
Abdul Rahman in his book, "The Malay Dilemma", became prime minister.
* During Mahathir's 22-year term, the longest by a Malaysian prime
minister, he modernized the commodities-dependent economy that he
inherited with industries ranging from electronics to vehicle
manufacturing. He also built extensive infrastructure such as roads,
ports, airports and the world's tallest twin towers, the Petronas Twin
ASIAN CRISIS AND BEYOND:
* The 1997 Asian economic crisis put a damper on break-neck
development, but Mahathir's controversial capital controls paid off,
and Malaysia made a stronger recovery than some neighbors.
* Mahathir retired on October 31, 2003 in favor of his deputy,
Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Despite poor health he continues to be an
outspoken political presence, sniping at his successor.
* Abdullah won the last elections in March 2004 by a landslide.
Barisan Nasional took 12 of the country's 13 states, and more than 90
percent of seats in parliament, though with 63.8 percent of the vote.
* In April 2006 he unveiled the Ninth Malaysia Plan, an economic blueprint for 2006-2010.